Monty Roberts (born May 14, 1935 in Salinas, California as Marvin Earl Roberts) is a horse trainer whose 1996 autobiography, The Man Who Listens to Horses, became a best-seller.
He wrote that by personally observing horses in the wild, he learned to "listen" to their non-verbal "language"; that when horses understood that they can trust you, they will decide to be with you. Roberts registered as his term for "hooking on", the phrase "Join~Up", in which a trainer negotiates with an untamed horse to form a voluntary relationship with him.
Roberts claims to have discovered the concept of listening to horses while observing wild mustang in Nevada at the age of thirteen. Roberts wrote that he was sent there to round up horses for the Salinas Rodeo Association’s Wild Horse Race and spent hours silently watching the feral horses interact with each other. He wrote that he realized that they used a discernible, effective and predictable body language to communicate, set boundaries, show fear and express annoyance, relaxation or affection. Roberts wrote that it was then that he understood that utilizing this silent language would allow training to commence in a much more effective and humane manner, encouraging true partnership between horses and humans.
An event that would change the direction of his life was a call was from the offices of Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom and an avid horsewoman. She had heard about Roberts' work and invited him to come to her country and show her staff his "Join~Up" method. After watching his demonstration, the Queen urged him to write a book about his nonviolent horse-training methods. That book became The Man Who Listens to Horses.
Today, Roberts travels around the world, demonstrating his method of nonviolent horse training. He volunteers his time speaking to incarcerated youth in juvenile detention facilities, gentles wild horses in front of live audiences, teaches his techniques to a growing number of students at his Equestrian Academy in Solvang, California, acts as a consultant at schools with disciplinary issues in the UK and the US, and advises executives at Fortune 500 companies.
The father of Monty Roberts was Marvin Roberts, who demonstrated his methods of horse training in his own book written in 1957 and according to Monty Roberts:
...trained horses to carry riders in the traditional way ... "breaking" horses by breaking their will, almost torturing the animals into submission.
Roberts claimed to have been beaten by his father, but according to other sources deny this. Roberts' brother, Larry Roberts, said that their father was a gentle and kind man known for his generosity. Roberts' aunt, Joyce Renebome, and cousin, Debra Ristau, in their book Horse Whispers & Lies, also deny claims of beatings and other abuse.
Monty Roberts: The Man Who Listens to Horses is a 1996 autobiography published in hard cover by Random House in 1997 and re-issued in paperback in 1998 by Ballantine Books (ISBN 0-345-42705-X). It spent 58 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list and has been translated into more than 15 languages. In 2007 it was re-released in an updated edition at its 10th year anniversary. It has sold over five million copies worldwide.
The thesis of this book is that it is possible to learn the nonverbal language of horses, and that such knowledge would enable a person to train a horse without resorting to physical force (see horse breaking).
The front flap says:
Monty Roberts is a real-life horse whisperer ... an American original whose gentle training methods reveal the depth of communication possible between man and animal. He can take a wild, high-strung horse who has never before been handled and persuade that horse to accept a bridle, saddle, and rider in thirty minutes.
The book remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 58 weeks.
Next was Shy Boy: The Horse That Came in from the Wild. It appeared in 1999 and also joined the best-seller lists.
Other books by Roberts include Horse Sense for People (2001), From My Hands to Yours (2002), The Horses in My Life (2005) and Ask Monty (2007).
Three documentaries on Roberts have been released. The first was the 1997 documentary BBC/PBS Monty Roberts: The Real Horse Whisperer. It showed Roberts as he set out to tame a wild mustang without enclosures, and his developing relationship with the horse later known as Shy Boy. Other documentaries include the 1999 film Shy Boy: The Horse That Came in from the Wild and a 2005 documentary on Roberts' work with wild horses and another about his work with aboriginal youth on Palm Island, Australia. In 2006, a DVD series with 17 episodes, named A Backstage Pass! was completed and broadcast in the UK.
In 2002, Roberts received an honorary doctorate in animal psychology from the University of Zurich in Switzerland and in 2005 he gained an honorary doctorate in animal psychology from the University of Parma in Italy. In 2004, the Girl Scouts of the USA commissioned a special Join-Up badge and training program in honor of Roberts’ work, and in 2005, he became the first foreign-born and first American to receive the German Silbernes Pferd (Silver Horse) Award for outstanding contributions to promoting the love of horses. In the Dec. 2008 issue of Your Horse, a major British equestrian magazine, readers named Monty Roberts Personality of the Year 2008.
Between 1950 and 1969, Roberts won 11 National NIRA All-Around Championships, including National NIRA Champion Bulldogger, the NIRA National Team Roping Championship and the NIRA National All Around Championship. In 1966 he assisted in the founding of Flag Is Up Farms, of which he is now the full owner. From 1973 to 1986, he was a leading consignor to the Hollywood Park Two-Year-Old Thoroughbreds in Training Sale. In 2004, Roberts’ German-bred horse Sabiango won major races throughout the US.
In 1989, Queen Elizabeth II invited Roberts to Windsor Castle to demonstrate his training methods to her and her staff, and in 2002 Roberts again visited Windsor Castle as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.